Monday, July 31, 2006

Another Brooklyn Food Miracle: Whole Foods to Open in Dumbo

Dumbo Shot

A little while ago, Curbed reported (well, Gowanus Lounge wearing our Curbed mask) that Whole Foods is planning to open a big store in Dumbo. Still our hearts! You can almost envision a time, a few long years from now, when the formerly desperate Brooklynite stands by the fridge wondering if he or she should go to the Dumbo Whole Foods or the one in Gowanus or to the Fairway in Red Hook or to (who knows) the Trader Joe's in Williamsburg.

What we know is this: An inside source at the big food retailer let slip that a Dumbo store is in the works. We don't know an opening date or a location, but process of elimination on the latter leads us to cast an eye in the direction of 20 Jay Street. That is the 40,000 square foot space formerly occupied by ABC Carpet Warehouse. (Another potential space, the Empire Stores, the wonderful Civil War era warehouse is supposed to be a Leviev Boymelgreen retail complex. Unless the J Condo has a vast interior retail space.)

Whole Foods' interest in Dumbo isn't new. The retailer is said to have been looking at the nabe for years, but had previously dismissed the idea because Dumbo was too remote and presented logistical issues. (Not that any of the logistical issue--truck access, parking--will be much easier now.)

Who knows? It could be that Whole Foods is feeling the heat from the new Fairway in Red Hook (remote, but has parking) or that someone counted how big a captive audience will soon exist in Dumbo and Vinegar Hill as big new residential buildings open.

In any case, a Dumbo store would be the second Brooklyn location for Whole Foods, which is also waiting for the toxic muck and ooze to be removed from their site in Gowanus. (Sometime in 2008 or thereabout.) The Dumbo Whole Foods was mentioned in the context of "several" new stores in Brooklyn, so others might also be in the mix. GL's money is on a significant Williamsburg outpost too in a few years, given that all those waterfront towers starting to rise will include hundreds of thousands of square feet of space for retail.

Food shopping! We're going to have more food shopping in Brooklyn.

Park Slope Mommy Rage Hops the Pond to the UK

brokenwindowwspilledbeans2 copyDon't look now, but the Cult of Momma Bean, the raging Park Slope mommy who tossed a can of beans and cracked the back windshield of a car that turned in front of her, is making news across the Atlantic in the UK. So, now, a whole lot of people who've never heard of the hills above Gowanus know that the territory is inhabited by some very angry moms. (We would expect that this weekend's story about the 12-year-old Prospect Park mommy and stroller baby muggers will also make their way to Europe as an emblematic urban tale.) The UK story, which appeared in the Sunday Times, headlined "Angry Moms Tell the World," calls our Bean Tossing Mommy "an unlikely new superhero."

Here goes:
An unlikely new superhero is stalking the streets of New York. She does not wear a costume, unless you count the pushchair she wheels from the supermarket to her Brooklyn home. And although she possesses no superhuman powers, she is deadly accurate with her weapon of choice — a tin of beans from her grocery bag.

The mothers of New York were last week agog at the reported exploits of a housewife who succumbed to a bout of “mommy rage”, an incendiary moment when the pains and pressures of motherhood erupt in a torrent of grief, frustration and flying tins of beans.

According to witness accounts that have ignited an internet frenzy this month, the Brooklyn mother in question was wheeling her toddler across a road in the trendy Park Slope neighbourhood when a car shot past her, narrowly missing the pushchair as it braked for traffic lights at the end of the road.

The mother reached into her bag and hurled a tin of beans at the car. When it missed, she threw another, and earned cheers and applause from passers-by when it struck the car’s back window, causing a thick crack.

The incident has sparked angry exchanges on the internet, with many mothers rallying to the bean-thrower’s cause in a discussion entitled “Park Slope Pedestrian Mommy Rage”.

Reaction also surfaced on a website that is attracting international attention for its insights into the lives of mothers who feel trapped by their husbands, their children and their working or stay-at-home lives. There is a lot of mommy rage at

The story goes on to deal with the subject of mommy rage in general and also deals with the Stay at Home Mom (SAHM) issue.

Glad to know Brooklyn bloggers are having an impact on our cousins across the way.

Happy 70th Birthday McCarren Pool


Today is the 70th anniversary of the dedication of McCarren Pool on July 31, 1936. McCarren Pool, which ceased operating as a pool in 1984, was the eighth of eleven giant pools built by Robert Moses and the Works Progress Administration that opened during the summer of 1936, which in and of itself is hard to imagine after generations of public disinvestment in amenities like parks and public swimming pools.

Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia cut the ribbon at McCarren pool on July 31, saying "no pool anywhere has been as much appreciated as this one." It was built to handle 6,800 swimmers--by 1930s standards, in any case--and cost $1 million to build. The Mayor and Moses opened one city pool a week during the summer of 1936, an interesting factoid in and of itself, given that it would never happen today without a major corporation footing the bill, because city and state government don't invest in facilities like these--or in parks, for that matter, unless they have a "funding mechanism"-- anymore.)

The Parks Department website says "the pool served as the summertime social hub for Greenpoint and Williamsburg" and that "the building's vast scale and dramatic arches, designed by Aymar Embury II, typify the generous and heroic spirit of New Deal architecture."

The sad fate of McCarren pool--all the years of abandonment and rot--are another matter. A 2003 article in Free Williamsburg provides a look at the hows and whys of McCarren Pool's closure in the first place:
In 1979, the city approved $100 million to restore the entire network of pools (many of which had fallen into a state of disrepair and neglect due to the fiscal crisis of the 70's that had forced major cutbacks in upkeep and security) so they would all be ready for the 50th anniversary celebration in 1986.

The pool was closed in 1983 to begin repairs and then the community said no. A blockade of residents protested fixing the pool up, citing the petty crime and undesirables it attracted. (I was sitting in The Charleston one afternoon at happy hour last year, talking to a long-time resident who was near me at the bar. The pool came up in conversation and he claimed [proudly] he was part of the effort to close it down back then "one way or the other, to keep the coloreds out." Officials and other people I talked with for the article admitted times were different back then.)

Enter politics. A task force was set up to determine how to overcome the community divide. A recommendation was issued to shrink the size of the pool and demolish the bathhouses that issued out of the sides of the arch.

"That was a stupid idea. The archway and the bathhouses are world-renowned pieces of architecture. The highness of the arch to the long, low-slung bathhouses creates a unique silhouette. Besides, it was illegal to tear it down if there were no plans for its future," explained Phyllis Yampolsky, head of the McCarren Park Conservancy, a private advocacy group.

There were no plans for its future. The demolition was put on hold, and Yampolsky began her fight to restore the arch and renovate the property. Community Board 1 had other ideas, and division ruled again.
Of the subsequent decay, Francis Morrone wrote that it was New York's "most poignant ruin" and "a monument to shame." The pool was finally revived last year and is hosting a full summer of programming this year, some of it not without controversy.

While McCarren Pool escaped the wrecking ball and being filled in, it's fate is still in the balance. Returning it to use as a pool will cost tens of millions of dollars, money the Parks Department insists it doesn't have. Unless, of course, a corporate angel wants to step up and return one of the grandest of the New Deal era NYC swimming pools to public use as a pool for Brooklynites.

old pool

Brooklinks: Monday Hey, It's a New Week Edition


Brooklinks is a selection of Brooklyn-related news stories, blog entries and images, like the one above, of tourists stalking the sunset at the Fulton Ferry Landing.

Weird Visions of Red Hook's Future


Red Hook is being "reinvented" by Yale School of Architecture students, and all we can say is, well, they are only conceptual drawings. Very, very conceptual. So, we present them for those that enjoy flights of fancy, a few of which are pictured above. Otherwise, here's a little sampling of the vision:

A naturalistic recreation park with camping, an animal preserve, a golf course, a grand canal, water sports and fishing, to selling off park space and promoting large-scale private development. One radical view unveils a "CarPark" that provides Red Hook with some additional 31,021 parking spaces and doubles as a large regional public park. Perhaps less radical, another project contemplates an "Historic Red Hook", side-by-side with a "Street Car Suburb", public housing, beach, entertainment and a farm. And what about those big box stores? Controversy is not avoided here. One model advocates that big box stores and the like should be not be resisted but viewed as assets with the aim of dispersing them throughout Red Hook as "smart growth."
"Controversy is not avoided here?" Really? As if a student suggesting parking for 31,021 cars will be embraced warmly? Or a golf course? What's a Wal-Mart compared to those? Thank God these are only conceptual drawings and plans prepared by grad students.

Should you wish to sample the drawings and models for yourself, you can catch them at the Brooklyn Waterfront Artist's Coalition Summer Show at the Beard Street Pier. On your way over, you could always stop at the Red Hook soccer fields for some papusas, assuming no one's turned them into a parking lot.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Bloc Party Rules at McCarren Pool, but the Big Concerts Bite

A couple of songs into Bloc Party's set at McCarren Pool on Saturday night lead singer Kele Okereke looked around the vastness of the pool-turned-concert venue and proclaimed, "So, I guess this is a pool party."

Not quite.

The "pool parties," those would be the community-spirited free events on Sunday afternoons. The Bloc Party concert, well, that would be the corporate-produced concert that a faction within the community bitterly opposes.

In any case, Okereke could be forgiven for not knowing anything about the history of the cool space in which the band was playing, except that he was clearly amused to be playing a former swimming pool.

Bloc Party was wonderful, tearing through a set built around their debut album, that also included some new material from their forthcoming release. (Check out some flickr photos here.) The real issue with the show, however, was the way in which it underscored what an inappropriate venue McCarren Pool is for big-ticket concerts. Five thousand tickets were sold for Saturday night's show and while McCarren can hold that many people, it's way too big a crowd for a general admission show with minimal security--with the wrong band and the wrong crowd it's a recipe for serious nastiness, in fact. (By the way, we're not advocating for meddlesome event security, just making a point about 5,000 people in a general admission setting.) Second, there's the assault on quality of life in the surrounding community--5,000 people coming into the neighborhod and a sound system loud enough to be heard a quarter mile away. GL has always loved our outdoor summer shows, but we also recognize that they do have an impact on those around them who might not want to spend the night, say, feeling their apartment thump to Bloc Party or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

(Here's our guess: We can huff and we can puff but what will blow the house down is that there's a wall of million dollar condos going up along McCarren Park that are close enough to vibrate from the bass riffs at live shows at the pool. Ironically, there's a story in today's NY Times about all the people buying McCarren Park condos. We suspect McCarren Pool's life as a mega-concert venue will be short lived, no matter how many skids corporate promoters manage to grease and how much the Parks Department wants to shrug and say it's broke when the subject of turning the pool back into a pool comes up. Oh, and are the buyers really that dumb and oblivious?)

Of course, the other unsavory part to all of this is that the Parks Department has turned over a revenue generating machine like McCarren Pool to a private operator without trying to recapture any of the money for the pool itself. Live Nation, which is producing six shows, stands to gross more than $1 million (not counting service fees) from these shows. (Even after expenses, they're going to make a significant profit from a public space.) Vendors like the Brooklyn Brewery stand to make tens of thousands more getting concert goers drunk. Is there a McCarren Park Trust to recapture some of this money for taxpayers? No. Profits from shows and sales at this public facility are going to line private pockets.

Brooklinks: Sunday Very Hot Edition

Seventh Avenue Snow

Brooklinks is a selection of Brooklyn-related articles, blog entries and images. The photo above was taken on February 12, when it wasn't quite so hot as it is now.

Not Brooklyn, but Worthwhile Reading:

Gowanus Lounge Photo Du Jour Part Deux: No Parking with Blue, Gray & Yellow

Colorful Door
Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Gowanus Lounge Photo Du Jour: Yellow Building on Kent

Yellow on Kent
Kent Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Video for a Blazing Summer Day: Sledding in Prospect Park During '06 Blizzard

It's hot, so keeping with our theme of cool images today, heres a video that recalls winter, specifically sledding in Prospect Park. Click on the video below or on this link.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

12-Year-Olds Rob Stroller Mom in Prospect Park

Just when we had almost forgotten about the "teen wolfpacks" menacing people in and around Prospect Park, we check out today's Post and find that two 12-year-old boys mugged a jogging Park Slope mom pushing a stroller in broad daylight yesterday. (Hold the jogging stroller wisecracks for a minute.) Yes, this sort of nasty stuff is part of Life in the Big City, but some things cross the line. This is one of the incidents that does.

Let's start with the age of criminals: twelve. Then, consider the victim: a mom with a baby. And, finally, the time of day: around 1:00 with other people around.

All Gowanus Lounge can say is: Wow. There's never a bean tossing Park Slope Psycho Mom around when you need her.

We understand that statistically robbery is down in the 78th Precinct, and that iPods attract every idiot under the sun that wants to take something. However, we also understand that Prospect Park and environs remains a magnet for groups of young people, some of whom are clearly up to no good. We see them, especially after dark. We also have a very strong sense that--other than a couple of week after the initial press about the "wolf packs" when you could see more cops along Prospect Park West--there are no more police than usual around. Let's put it this way, if there's a "task force" out there, they are so low-key and invisible that you don't know they are there.

We're thinking this will be one of those little stories that has some legs, both because of the nature of the victim(s) and the age of the criminals. Maybe it's time to revive a suggestion from the time of the wolf packs: Roving gangs of real estate agents (call them the "Property Value Guardian Angels") out looking for Park Slope Tween Criminals, because moms with infants getting mugged easily trim 10-20 percent from an asking price. You'll be able to spot candidates for the PVGA easily--they'll be the ones going from newsstand to newsstand today buying up all the copies of the Post.

Brooklinks: Saturday Sights and Sounds (with Chill) Edition

Bicycle in Snow

Brooklinks is a daily selection of Brooklyn-related news articles, blog entries and images. (The photo above, as you swelter today, was taken on February 12. Remember?):

Interesting Brooklyn Video/Sonic Action:
Cool Brooklyn Still Image Action:
Worthy Brooklyn Verbal Action:

Gowanus Lounge Saturday Curbed Wrap Up


We spend a fair of time each week churning out items for Curbed, most of which don't appear here. So, if you're curious and haven't seen them, here's a sampling from this week.

McCarren Pool Update: No Swim, Only Noise
Coney Island Update: More Luxe Housing, More Heat
Meet the New Williamsburg Waterfront
Collateral South Slope Damage
Peevish Williamsburg Graffiti #2
Peevish Wiilamsburg Graffiti #1
Before Ikea: Bricks and Rubble

Gowanus Lounge Photo Du Jour Part Deux: Googly Call Box

Googly Six
Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Gowanus Lounge Photo Du Jour: The End

The End
Remains of Todd Shipyard Buildings, Red Hook, Brooklyn

Friday, July 28, 2006

Spitzer to Empire State Development Corp.: Hold on a Minute


Democratic Gubernatorial frontrunner and state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who has avoided the subject of Atlantic Yards like a truck full of toxic waste for most of the campaign, has come down on the side of project opponents on at least one front: he wants more time for public comment and hearings. Norman Oder reported this afternoon in his Atlantic Yards Report that Spitzer has sent a letter to Empire State Development Corp. Chair Charles Gargano asking that the public hearing scheduled for August 23 be delayed for at least 30 days. That would allow 90 days for community organizations and others to digest the 1,400 page Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement. A wide variety of local officials have also requested a delay.

AYR quotes the letter as saying:
While I strongly support development at the Atlantic Yards site, I believe it is vital that there be adequate opportunity for public review of this project. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which was released on July 18, 2006, is approximately 1400 pages long and deserves the careful review that is essential for a project of this magnitude. In addition, the three community boards that represent the immediate neighborhood of the project are in recess until September. For these reasons, I believe it is appropriate that the public hearing associated with the DEIS, that is now scheduled for August 23, 2006, be postponed for at least 30 days, leaving a total of not less than 90 days for review.
A cynical analyst might say that it is calculated move on Spitzer's part to throw a bone to the South Brooklyn voters that are against Atlantic Yards in its current form, without taking any stand on the project itself. (It is after all hard to ignore forever a major public project driven by state government when you're running for governor.) From Spitzer's point of view there is no political cost in asking for another 30 days of public comment and for a public hearing after summer vacation is over.

The less cynical observer might conclude that he's genuinely offended by the rush job of the hearings and the image problem created by scheduling a major hearing when all the concerned community boards are not in session. Whatever the motivation, the fact is that Brooklynites and Community Boards desperately need as much time as possible to honesty assess Atlantic Yards' impact, and the community needs a healthy debate, both pro and con.

It doesn't take a political or planning genius to understand why Mr. Gargano and Company are so anxious to take a page from the playbook of the man they should make their Patron Saint--recently departed Newark Mayor Sharpe James--and get Atlantic Yards done ASAP. Mr. James, who was one of the more wiley public officials to hold local office in recent decades, worked hard to ensure that his downtown sports arena for the New Jersey Devils was rising from the ground before he even thought about leaving office. As long as construction crews aren't digging holes, pouring foundation and covering up the rail yards on the day Gov. Pataki leaves office, there's always the chance that the deal could come undone. If the Governor had attended to World Trade Center redevelopment with the same sense of urgency and can-do spirit, we'd be looking at more than a hole in the ground today.

Public debate can upset even the best laid plans. It can slow things down and introduce uncertainty. It can allow for the airing of uncomfortable questions, and give a public forum to those with other ideas.

Mr. Gargano's inner Robert Moses must have grimmaced when Mr. Spitzer's letter arrived.

The War for Brooklyn: A User's Guide

This week's Time Out New York has a cover story near and dear to our hearts. Titled "The War for Brooklyn," the package of stories takes a close look at the fight over the futures of several neighborhoods and at several projects: Brooklyn Bridge Park, Gowanus, Downtown, Bed-Stuy, the Williamsburg-Greenpoint Waterfront, Red Hook and, of course, Atlantic Yards. (The links will take you to the individual sections without having to login.)

There's also an accompanying item about "The Embeds," some of the blogs and bloggers covering the various fights over the borough's future. Specifically "intrepid bloggers" that "send continual dispatches from the front lines." (We covered the war in the Balkans for a short spell, long before anyone coined the phrase embeds. Brooklyn's a way more low-key gig. We haven't been shot at yet, only asked to stop taking photos.) Gowanus Lounge is one of the Brooklyn embeds mentioned as are B61 Productions, the Brooklyn Record, Brownstoner, Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, Planet PLG and Set Speed. (There are some embeds doing excellent work that were missed: Atlantic Yards Report, No Land Grab, Dope on the Slope and Sunset Parker to name a few--and we know we're leaving some good ones out too. That's the problem with our little Brooklyn Blogade--we're already pretty large in number.)

Of GL, Time Out says: "A smart, open-minded and far-ranging blog, equally comfortable with old-school pleasures like the Dance of the Giglio and analysis of development and gentrification issues." Shucks.

The War for Brooklyn is a great package about a whole lot of the issues and places that collectively speak to the future of Brooklyn.

Before the Storm: Huge Crowd Watches Glass, Kronos & Dracula

Dracula 1

Phillip Glass and the Kronos Quartet were brilliant last night at Celebrate Brooklyn, performing their original score for Dracula as a huge audience shifted its focus back and forth from the legendary musicians to Bela Lugosi on the screen. Brilliant, that is, until a raging thunderstorm loomed and cut the performance short about 25 minutes into the show, just as Dracula and Renfield were arriving in London. The lights went up, and Kronos and Glass took a bow to very loud applause. At that point, thousands of people made for the exits as lightening bolts snaked impressively from the sky. Gowanus Lounge personally witnessed one of the most impressive bolts of lightening ever hit somewhere near Eighth Avenue and Eighth Street, a block away. Which is when the downpour began.

All fitting, somehow, for a performance of Dracula, a lot less so for the superb musical performance that was cut short. Perhaps, another time.


Dracula 3

Dracula 2

Red Hook Soccer Field Weekend Food Fiesta, Part II

jugos 3

All of the restaurants that set up shop at the Red Hook soccer fields have gotten an avalanche of good press in the last couple of weeks. The spot was even named in New York's "Best Cheap Eats" roundup and ranked Number 9 on a list of 101 with four stars.

This is New York's take:
Nowhere else in the city will you find food as cheap and delicious and in such titillating profusion as at this glorious outdoor feedlot. The portable kitchens that materialize around the soccer and baseball fields weekends from late spring through early fall, marked by their blue tarps and billowing plumes of charcoal smoke, all purvey food from Central and South America at the average going rate of $2.50 a plate. There are tacos galore, and great greasy quesadillas. There is seviche from Ecuador and pupusas from El Salvador. Factor in the cost relative to the remarkable quality and freshness of the food, and the makeshift market—a triumph of ingenuity and flavor over remote locale and vending-permits red tape—easily achieves four-star status.
The outdoor restaurants are located on Bay Street, between Clinton and Court, by the soccer fields. They offer one of the most different dining experiences in all of New York City and you should make it part of any weekend trip to The Hook. Our purpose here, though, was to share some of the cool colors we captured.

fruit 1

jugos 2

Brooklinks: All Hail Friday Edition


Number One Recommended Blog Read of the Day:
Other Quite Valuable News:

Fun Friday Time Waster: F Train, A Five Boro Film

In our constant trawling for material, we came across this video posted this week, called "F Train, A Five Boro Film (Anime Version)." Check it out. Where else can you see a kung fu vid set on the F Train with Eno doing Baby's on Fire in the background? Click the vid below or on the link here.

A Little Williamsburg Before and After Action

Before and After copy

Gowanus Lounge always makes a point of wandering down Kent Avenue in Williamsburg to see how things are going in the total makeover the waterfront is starting to get. One point of interest is the new East River State Park, slated to open soon. In any case, the "before" shot was taken on July 3 of a street art mural that had been on the wall forever. The "after" shot was taken on July 23, after workers had been through painting all the walls. There's already one new stencil on the painted wall, and we have full faith that Williamsburg's graffiti and street art crew will soon fire the next shots.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Brooklyn Double Speak of the Week: "Friendly Condemnation"

Can someone who speaks English, rather than Double Speak, please tell us this: What in the name of God is a "friendly condemnation"? Is it like "friendly fire," which even though it's a big, bad boo-boo, still leaves the recipient as dead as he who is on the recieving end of old-fashioned unfriendly fire? Or is it like what your significant other does when he or she is breaking up with you but still wants to be friends, berating you terribly--but in a very nice way--so that after 12 or so months of weekly therapy sessions you can still be friends?

We imagine a "friendly condemnation" goes something like, "You know, I really hate to do this...I can't tell you how sorry I am that this team of heavily armed officers here is going to have to arrest you, but, they're making me take everything you own. Sorry. Can we still be friends?"

Among all the things that Atlantic Yards has given us recently--a 60-story building called Miss Brooklyn, public hearings scheduled at the height of summer vacation season, development company officials wisecracking that they worked with their architect to produce a shadow-free skyscraper, a PR spin that insists on calling the mega-development an arena project, a non-impact environmental impact that will result in more, but less, sewerage at the same time--one of our favorites is the concept of "friendly condemnation." Call us nuts, but all we can see is a figure wearing a Happy Face bubble head, carrying an AK-47. Being friendly and homicidal at the same time.

For a serious analysis of "friendly condemnation," of course, see Atlantic Yards Report, where Norman Oder holds forth on this curious phenomenon, deconstructing it as only he can.

Us, we prefer to rant and be less scientific.

The friendly situation, as we understand it, is this: The Empire State Development Corporation would acquire nearly all the property in the Atlantic Yards site via eminent domain, including city streets and the 90 percent owned by Forest City Ratner. It's apparently standard practice, but it is also the pre-requisite for some quite unfriendly activity such as evicting tenants living in rent-stablized apartments and avoiding protracted bureaucratic and legal requirements. It is likely also part of the legal strategy to try to get a positive ruling on very unfriendly eminent domain condemnations of property owned by people that don't want to sell.

How you feel about all this depends not only on your view of Atlantic Yards, but how you feel about the government's power to come in and take your property if it decides that a higher purpose is served.

While Forest City Ratner owns the majority of property in the Atlantic Yards footprint, there are a significant number of properties that it doesn't own and whose owners aren't inclined to sell. They're the ones that are going to get a visit from very unfriendly (ie. hostile, inhospitable, antagonistic and, perhaps, even surly or poopyhead-like) government takers of property. (There will be many Eyewitness News Moments the day this unfriendly activity occurs.) Those who might face the Churlish and Unhappy Face of Atlantic Yards could include owners of four rental buildings, 13 commercial buildings and five individual owner-occupied units. They will also include the dozens of tenants living in units that will be taken by ESDC while wearing its Happy Face. (Can you say, "You're evicted!" in a friendly tone of voice? Maybe, "You're evicted, please, if you'd be so kind as to get out." Perhaps, it would help to have people speaking upper class British accents do the evicting? It would sound more...friendly.)

Anyway you cut it, there will be a whole lot of good, old fashioned unfriendly condemnation going on if the project goes forward, and some of these takings of property will become the subject of the litigation that could ultimately determine the project's fate. Daniel Goldstein, who is the most outspoken of the Atlantic Yards opponents whose property would be taken in a most unfriendly way, is deeply convinced that the eminent domain will be the soft underbelly that kills the project.

That litigation will begin the moment ESDC stops trying to pretend to be Mr. Rogers and saying, "Oh, won't you be my neighbor," and the unfriendliness starts.

Gowanus Eco Cruise on Saturday in a "Human Powered Boat"


Yes, it's supposed to be hot as hell on Saturday, but how many chances do you to get out on the Gowanus Canal, especially if you don't want to do the South Brooklyn Seine via canoe or kayak? The latest opportunity comes courtesy of the Urban Divers on Saturday (7/29) from 1PM to 3PM. The boat leaves from the foot of Second Street on the Big G. The Divers say:
Experience a unique educational & adventure eco-cruise with the entire family, friends, neighbors and visitors, aboard our 32ft human powered vessel; a type of shipping canoe widely used by local Native Americans, as well by other river farers and coastal traders of the 17th century, who thrived on the natural resources of the once vital estuary during a time when Oysters from the Gowan Creek estuarine waterway that flows in the neighborhood. The tours are guided by our experienced and enthusiastic environmental educators & environmental justice advocates, who engage participants in fun and hands-on environmental investigation & discovery activities to assess environmental quality as well as to investigate the current cost and effect of human impact. The vessel will accommodate 20 paddlers at a time...Plus a Raffle of 6 copies of the latest award winning documentary- "Coming Clean- Reclaiming the Gowanus Canal".
Well, it's sort of a canoe, but a very big one. You have to register in advance and there is a charge for the cruise. Call 718-802-9874 to get out on the Big G on Saturday.

Brooklinks: Thursday "Got Food?" Edition


Brooklinks is a selection of Brooklyn-related news stories, blog items and images.

Brooklyn Food and Booze:
Yassky on Black and White (Cookies) [Edible Brooklyn via Brooklyn Record]
New Fort Greene Booze Spots [setspeed]
Trout is Pleasant [A Brooklyn Life]
The Dope on Chickory Brooklyn [NYT]
Bocce and Beercheese at Union Hall [NYPress]
New Restaurant Alert: Bocca Lupo [A Brooklyn Life]
Mighty Good Gumbo [Dope on the Slope]
Is Bay Ridge's Tanoreen Really Brooklyn's Best? [Brooklyn Record]
Strawberry Shortcake Customers Vid [Coney Island Shortcakes]

Nothing to Do with Either Eating or Drinking:
HOMEPLATE, UFUKD and Sweetheart Deals [Dope on the Slope]
Miss Brooklyn: Three X's the Square Footage of Williamsburgh Bank Bldg [AYR]
Brooklynites Ticked About Timing of Aug. 23 Atlantic Yards Hearing [NYPost]
Coney Island Real Estate Boom [NYPost]
Vacating the Construction-Damaged South Slope Building [IMBY]
Colored Lighting on Brooklyn Bridge? [Brooklyn Record]
Kiteboarding in Brooklyn [Sail Brooklyn]
Collateral South Slope Damage [Curbed]

The Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal AKA "The Edge"

The striking photograph above comes courtesy of a new blog called imnotsayin imjustsayin produced by Williamsburg resident James Striebich, who has a keen eye for and interest in the waterfront along Kent Avenue. The photo is of the ruins of the former Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal, which is set to become Douglaston Development's "The Edge," a pair of 40-story luxury residential towers made possible by last year's waterfront rezoning. (Construction crews are onsite starting basic foundation work as we speak, Jim reports in an email.) We'll let imjustsayin relate some of the history of the Eastern District Terminal--some of the railbeds of which are still visible:
The BEDT was originated in 1875 as the East River Terminal by the Havemeyer & Elder Sugar Co. (later Domino Sugar) as a railyard that accepted freight cars delivered by float barges from terminals in New Jersey (remember, this predates all East River bridge and tunnel connections). The sugar refining, as well as hundreds of other manufacturing businesses in and around Williamsburg and Greenpoint - not to mention the Brooklyn Navy Yard - needed an efficient way to receive raw materials and ship out finished goods. With the bulk of domestic freight being moved by train in those days, there was a natural efficiency in moving loaded railcars by barge, rather than unloading them onto ships and standard freight barges.

The East River waterfront from North 3rd (including the recently landmarked, then un-landmarked Austin Nichols Warehouse) to North 10th was a bustling railyard from 1875 until August, 1983, when the decades-long decline in rail transportation (due primarily to the boom in interstate trucking) finally led the BEDT to cease operations.
We look forward to many illuminating and informative posts, knowing from the photos and information that James has shared with us for GL and Curbed that his blog will be required reading. You can see the flickr photoset of his waterfront photos here.

New York's Best Cheap Eats: The Brooklyn Edition

New York has published it's always-fun "cheap eats" story, so Gowanus Lounge is doing our borough duty and listing the Brooklyn entries. The magazine defines "cheap" as most of the entrees on the menu being under $20. One can quibble about what's "cheap" and what isn't, but we do know that a bunch of the places below have good eats. Carroll Gardens and Red Hook are the neighborhood winners in terms of the most mentions. All of the Brooklyn entries appear under their "star" rankings, with links to a basic review, plus address and phone.

Five Stars
  • Tanoreen. 7704 Third Ave., Bay Ridge, 718-748-5600
  • Franny's. 295 Flatbush Ave., Prospect Heights, 718-230-0221
Four Stars
Three Stars
  • iCi. 246 DeKalb Ave., Fort Greene, 718-789-2778
  • Totonno's. 1524 Neptune Ave., Coney Island, 718-372-8606
  • Chestnut. 271 Smith St., Carroll Gardens, 718-243-0049
  • The Queen's Hideaway. 222 Franklin St., Greenpoint, 718-383-2355
  • 360. 360 Van Brunt St., Red Hook, 718-246-0360
  • Bouillabaisse. 126 Union St., Carroll Gardens, 718-855-4405
  • Schnäck. 122 Union St., Carroll Gardens, 718-855-2879
  • Egg. (AKA Sparky's) 135 N. 5th St., Williamsburg, 718-302-5151
Two Stars
  • Marlow & Sons. 81 Broadway, Williamsburg, 718-384-1441
  • Beast. 638 Bergen St., Prospect Heights, 718-399-6855
  • The Good Fork. 391 Van Brunt St., Red Hook, 718-643-6636

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

"New Life for the Gowanus"


Today's New York Sun has a lengthy and very upbeat article on our namesake, the Big G, that continues the excellent press our once scorned South Brooklyn Seine and environs has been getting in recent months. The Sun notes the upcoming opening of the Gowanus Holiday Inn Express (which we learn, to our disappointment, does not have canal views), notes that developer Shaya Boymelgreen is still cooking up plans for Gowanus Village and updates the status of planning and zoning efforts that will determine Gowanus' actual future. It devotes a great deal of space to the work of the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation, which recently released an updated comprehensive plan for the neighborhood.

Here's our favorite part of the article:
The Gowanus, like the canals in Chartres, Venice, Gdansk, and Georgetown, has an intimate scale and calm waters. Gowanus is rich in history; as a creek it was one of the first Dutch settlements; the site of the Battle of Brooklyn ("Good God, what brave men must I lose this day!" said Washington of the 400 Marylanders); the landscape industrialized by real estate developer Edwin Litchfield, who petitioned the legislature to allow the building of the canal (his Italianate Brooklyn Improvement Co. building still stands at Third Avenue and Third Street, and was recently landmarked). The canal has water, scale, ecology and history — and it smells better than Venice!
In point of fact, Gowanus Lounge has logged months of time in Venice over the years, and we can attest to the fact that in the last several years, at least, we have rarely noticed the Gowanus smelling as ripe as many of the canals of our favorite city in all the world can smell on the wrong day.

In Red Hook: What a Difference 60 Days Make

Ikea Before and After copy

In case you just dropped in from someplace that is not Brooklyn or New York City, the photo above is Beard Street in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The red brick buildings in the top photo belonged to the Todd Shipyard, property now owned by Ikea. They are separated by almost exactly two months.

Design Collective Show Redux: It's About the Designers, Stupid

On Monday, we wrote an item about Saturday's wonderful Indie Designers Market show in Park Slope that focused on some background noise created by the Old Stone House, which hosted the show. Several of the designers (very appropriately) noted that we overlooked their hard work. That was not our intent.

The show featured two impressive floors worth of local designers offering excellent fashions and accessories, and showcasing their wonderful creativity. (The beautiful work to the right belongs to Elaine Perlov.) We passed through between rainstorms and weren't taking notes or we would name our two particular favorites: a designer on the second floor offering some of the coolest custom-designed clothing for children and toddlers that we've ever seen anywhere (the t-shirts with the handpainted cars were genius) and one with wonderful hand-crafted colorful leather accessories and little bags in which to carry things around.

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn highlights the designers themselves, which was the entire point of the show. We'll borrow from OTBKB's excellent summary for the one or two readers that haven't already seen it there:
On Saturday, I went to the Design Collective Market, the brainchild of clothing designer Kathy Malone, at the Old Stone House.

And this is what I got: a quilted blue skirt with a red floral patterned lining by Fofolle for 2-year old Ducky.

There were two floors of Brooklyn's hot, new, design stars who were selling their indie handbags, jewelry, children's clothing, accessories, and paper and lifestyle goods.

Lot and Lots of cool things to buy. Here were some of my faves:

Beautiful skirts in beautiful fabrics and great t's and tanks with appliques by Fofolle. Loved Elaine Perlov's clothing and her obie belts. She was featured on Daily Candy and Lucky Magazine's Pick of the Day. Pretty, pretty necklaces with glass beads and baubles by Kristin Eno. Cool name and cool stuff from Slope Suds. Beautiful hand-screened goods by Foxy & Winston.

So much more -- I don't remember all the names. Special, hand-made things. A great way to support local, indie talent and own something beautiful and unique in the process.

The Design Collective has a large membership and Kathy Malone has many more shows planned for this eclectic group of artisans and designers. Stay tuned for more shows.

We will say it here LOUD AND CLEAR: We were excited in the first place that this show was taking place locally, we salute the hard work of the organizers and designers and we look forward to more shows from this excellent group of talented Brooklynites. Next time, we promise a focus exclusively on your wonderful work!!!

Brooklinks: Wednesday Looking for Blight Edition

Seventh Avenue Station

Brooklinks is a daily selection of Brooklyn-related news stories, blog items and images.

So Blighted You Need a Freaking Gas Mask:

Red Hook Graving Dock Future: Ikea Parking Lot?

As we noted in an update on Ikea's Red Hook demolition progress over at Curbed on Monday, people are still hoping to save the Graving Dock on the Todd Shipyard property where the Swedish retailer intends to build its big blue box on New York Harbor. (The Graving Dock is a huge dry dock where ships are repaired.) Our own look at the Ikea property on Saturday reminded us that the dock is about the only thing left to save, as demolition is so advanced that the only things left on the site are a small portion of the red brick powerhouse on Beard Street and three cranes. The rest of the site--via a feverish demolition effort--has been reduced to emptiness and hills of crushed rubble.

Last week, when we were talking with the Kenter Gallery's Florence Neal, she noted a brainstorming session on saving the Graving Dock would take place Thursday from 6-8 PM at the Waterfront Museum Barge. (It is located next to the Waterfront Museum Barge, which is located next to the Red Hook Fairway.) The meeting is sponsored by the Save the Graving Dock Committee.

The dock needs all the help it can get, as Ikea is planning to fill it in for parking. Brooklyn Ramblings writes that "Graving dock advocates, however, point out that the number of such facilities in the New York area is declining rapidly, thus putting the shipping industry at a hardship." Several proposals have been floated to keep the graving dock in operation, but Ikea has turned them down. Brooklyn Ramblings also offers a letter from State Comptroller William Thompson to Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Daniel Doctoroff that urges preservation of the Graving Dock. (The Preservation League of New York has named the Graving Dock as one of the most endangered historic structures in New York State and put it on its list of "Seven to Save.")

Watch an excellent BCAT segment on the Graving Dock and the Waterfront Museum barge by clicking this link.

It's Official: South Slope Tower Gets Whacked


The Board of Standards & Appeals formally handed opponents of highrises in the South Slope a major victory yesterday by denying developer Isaac Katan's application to build an 11-story tower at 182 15th Street under old zoning regulations that allowed highrises like the one pictured above. Parts of the South Slope, Greenwood Heights and Windsor Terrace were downzoned last year, but developers have been trying ever since to get a number of buildings "vested" under the old zoning. (The legal issue hinges on how complete a building's foundation was at the time the zoning was changed.) The BSA ruling can be appealed to the State Supreme Court, but it doesn't often overturn BSA decisions.

The 15th Street building was the subject of a particularly nasty fight between neighborhood groups and the developer. Aaron Brashear of Concerned Citizens of Greenwood Hts., which has helped lead the fight against the highrises, said residents "are most encouraged that BSA took seriously the community's allegations of illegal and improper practices" at the building site. The agency gave developers the go-ahead in three previous cases.

Three remaining properties--at 614 7th Ave., 1638 Eighth Ave. and 422 Prospect Ave.--are still up for BSA decisions.

Blood Sucking Fun with Phillip Glass/Kronos Quartet at Celebrate Brooklyn

We don't usually list performances at Celebrate Brooklyn, as our favorite neighborhood summer music fest does a great job of promoting its shows. But Thursday night's performance by the world-renowned Phillip Glass and the Kronos Quartet deserves emphasis.

They will be performing an original score to 1931's Dracula (with Bela Lugosi), which Glass and Kronos have been touring around since 2000. Slavic Soul Party is opening with some Balkan anthems and funk. The music and blood sucking fun start at 7:30 at the Prospect Park Bandshell.

If you caught Yo La Tengo performing their score to the sea life documentaries a couple of weeks ago at Celebrate Brooklyn, you'll know why these shows are fun.

Red Hook Movies in the Park Series

Big ups to the blog Z. Madison for promoting the Red Hook Movies in the Park Summer 2006 series. The venues for the series, which runs through September 23, are Coffey Park, Valentino Pier and the Red Hook Community Farm. Hook Productions is presenting short films produced by neighborhood teens before each feature. The schedule includes Dave Chappelle's Block Party on July 29 at the Community Farm, The Wiz on August 5 at Coffey Park, Crooklyn on August 12 at Valentino Pier, The Future of Food on August 19 at the Red Hook Community Farm, E.T. on August 26 at Coffey Park, Madea's Family Reunion on September 2 at Valentino Pier, Wallace and Grommit on September 9, The Italian Job at Coffey Park on September 16 and Pirates of the Carribean at on September 23 at Valentino Pier.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Newsflash: Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams Not Leaving Brooklyn

Heath-n-MichelleThe rumor mill has been abuzz since news surfaced that Brooklyn's first family, AKA Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams, were departing Brooklyn for Hollywood.


No Land Grab is reporting that it's all a misunderstanding and Heath and Michelle are staying in Brooklyn. Specfically:
It's pathetic for NoLandGrab to have to stick our noses into the cauldron of celebrity gossip, but...a source close to the first couple of Boerum Hill has told us that Michelle and Heath bought Ellen DeGeneres's home in Hollywood so that they could have a home base for the family while in town for work. The couple "still consider New York, and specifically Brooklyn, home," and they'll be back again in the fall.

They might be sorry that they'll miss the Empire State Development Corporation's public hearing and forum, but other Brooklynites will show up to represent Boerum Hill.

In the meantime, it's totally lame when an amateurish information portal on Atlantic Yards has the scoop on the professional snarks.

GL welcomes No Land Grab's scoop and denies being a professional snark. Amateur, maybe.

Wallabout Update: Affordable Housing Coming to Brig Site

Remember the "Brig"? Know where the Wallabout section of Brooklyn is? Sure you do. The Brig is the old Naval prison across Flushing Avenue from the Brooklyn Navy Yard that was visible from the BQE until it was demolished last year. It was located on a square block bounded by Flushing Avenue to the north, Park Avenue to the south, Clermont Avenue to the east and Vanderbilt Avenue to the west. Wallabout is the name for the Navy Yard area and part of Fort Greene. (In case you still can't picture it, the handy map, showing the parcel with the prison still standing is below.)

In any case, the city is now requesting proposals for development on the site, which would include 400 new housing units, about two-thirds of which would be affordable housing. There would also be commercial space on the site.

The winning bidder will get the site for $1.

If you've never much thought about Wallabout, which is named after the East River's Wallabout Bay, around which the Navy Yard developed, it has a pretty awful history. The bay was where British prison ships were moored during the American Revolutionary War, from about 1776-1783. More "than 10,000 soldiers and sailors died due to deliberate neglect on these rotting hulks," according a Wikipedia entry, which was more American soldiers than were killed in every Revolutionary War battle combined. It continues:
Though the corpses were buried on the eroding shore in shallow graves, or often just thrown overboard, local women collected remains when they became exposed or washed onshore. The nearby Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument in Fort Greene Park houses remains of the prisoners and overlooks the site of their torment and death.
The bay's name means "bay of the Walloons," referring to the French-speaking settlers of the area from the southern part of Belgium.

(The photo of the cleared site, above comes from Angela on flickr.)

The Brig 500

Brooklinks: Tuesday Food, Recreation and Plastic Rats Edition

Red Hook Food

Brooklinks is a daily selection of Brooklyn-related news articles, blog items and images.

Stoop Sale Rats:
Everything Else:
And, Finally, Why Your Cable Internet is Acting Like Dial-Up:

McCarren Pool Summerscreen Starts Tonight


A new free film and music series called Summerscreen starts at McCarren Pool in Williamsburg tonight. The series is produced by L Magazine and Sens Productions (and sponsored by Volkswagen). Door open at 7PM, with music first and films starting after dark. The series will run every Tuesday night through August 22, with a special finale on Saturday, August 26 with DJ Spooky. Tonight's movie is Do the Right Thing, with Bottle Rocket showing next week (8/1) and the French Connection the week after (8/8). The Swimmer is being screening on August 15. Love Streams is August 22 and Style Wars is August 26. Kick back, hang at the pool, listen to music and watch movies.

Park Slope Tractor Story: From Dope on the Slope to the Times

When we read the story in the New York Times on Sunday about the farm tractor in Park Slope, we had the nagging feeling that we'd seen it before. But, we consume way more information than we can retain so we couldn't put our finger on it. Today, we know. One of our favorite blogs--and one from which we wish we'd hear more every day--posted an item this spring about someone he'd photographed in Park Slope "lovingly maintaining a jim-dandy 1946 Ford Ferguson farm tractor." NYT reporter Jennifer Bleyer e-mailed Dope and tracked down the gentleman, despite the fact that Dope didn't know his name. The morph from blog entry to NYT story says a lot about the interconnectedness of old and new media and the way that more and more stories that first surface in the blogosphere make their way into "traditional" media.

Pretty cool, we think.

Monday, July 24, 2006

When is a "Donation" No Longer a Donation?

Gowanus Lounge attended the Park Slope Designer Market at the Old Stone House in J.J. Byrne Park on Saturday. It presented a nice assortment of clothes and accessories created by local designers. The little scene we witnessed at the front desk, though, has had us scratching our heads ever since. We've hestitated even getting into this, because we like the Old Stone House and its director and admire its role in the community, but we helped promote the, here goes:

We arrived around 4 o'clock and noticed that the person at the desk was requesting a "three dollar suggested donation" for admission. (Which is no doubt standard for the facility.) Interesting, in this case, because the show was specifically promoted as being free. In any case, like we said, we like the Old Stone House and didn't have a problem with the three dollars, even though we were on our way to Sunset Park and to Bay Ridge and were only planning to stay for a few minutes. What's three bucks, right? As we entered, we heard the person at the front desk ask a young woman who was clearly under the age of eighteen to see her student ID when she said "I'm a student," in response to the request for "a donation." The young woman looked surprised, but coughed up her student ID.

We looked around the show, and were on our way out when we heard an ugly exchange between the Old Stone House person and two visitors who said they were surprised they'd have to pay admission. They didn't want to see the museum, they said, only the design show. As they continued to balk, they recieved a stern lecture (this is a kind description of the tone we heard) about how "this is our suggested donation" and how "the donation supports the museum and programming at the Old Stone House."

"But we only want to come to the design show," one of the visitors said.

"It's in the Old Stone House and three dollars is our suggested donation," the worker said.

We didn't want to get into the dispute, so we stayed out of it and didn't point out how the promotional material said the show was free. ("Free show," to us, doesn't mean the show is free, but the venue charges you.) Make a long story short, one of the visitors told the worker she could be nicer about it. The worker said the visitors (who were being quite nice) were being nasty "so we're even."

The two visitors left without ever going in, one of them saying, "I don't want to support this place."

So, here's the point of all this: If a donation is an admission price, why hew to this fiction that it's a donation? We understand that we live in an era in which the public sector shortchanges cultural institutions and that our parks are, almost literally, being sold to the highest bidder and that everyone from the Metropolitan Museum of Art on down does it, but why engage in double speak? If you demand it--and do so stridenly--it is only a donation in the sense that a mugger would call the money you give up a "donation"

More to the point, while the likely villain is probably a miscommunication somewhere along the line, is the few hundred dollars the Old Stone House collected on Saturday worth the ill will it generated among people that might have been badly treated by niceness-challenged person who was at the desk in late afternoon? (There are nice ways to tell people to pay up, and there are less nice ways. We only heard less nice ways.)

Again, we like the Old Stone House. It hosts wonderful community events. So does J.J. Byrne Park. We attended the Brooklyn Blogfest there and it was great. We feel awful just pointing this out. But, we feel even worse that we helped promote the designer's show and that some people were taken by surprise by the "donation" and that those that didn't want to "donate"--for whatever reason...cheapness, lack of cash, lack of civic mindedness, whatever--were turned away or, worse, treated badly by the staff.

Yes, this is a dumb little thing, but it's been irritating us ever since we listened to the exchange. We're sorry to the Old Stone House for pointing it out. We're sorry to the people that worked hard to organize the design show. We're sorry to the people who attended and had issues with the admission price.

Gowanus Lounge Goes to Powerless Queens

Astoria Red Cross

Gowanus Lounge was out-of-borough for a while yesterday, and we made a point of passing through blacked-out Astoria, where up to 80,000 people are still without power. The streets are full of Con Ed trucks, NYPD and FDNY vehicles, portable generators and traffic cops directing traffic at intersections where traffic lights are out. We saw hundreds of Con Ed employees working hard to try to get the lights working again and a couple of distribution points where the Red Cross is handing out ice and meals. Here and there on Steinway Street in Astoria, the stench of rotting garbage and food was overpowering. The scope of the outage is a bit staggering--it covers a huge area--but not as stunning as Con Ed's deception and/or stupidity. (IE, underestimating the number of people impacted by 90 percent.) A few more pictures below and in our flickr photoset.

Steinway Three